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White Suits #1 Has Gritty Style, But Not Much Substance

White Suits #1 Has Gritty Style, But Not Much Substance

The White Suits #1TheWhiteSuits
Written by Frank Barbiere
Art/Colors by Toby Cypress
Published by Dark Horse Comics

To start things off, Frank Barbiere and Toby Cypress do a great job composing a mise en scene, and White Suits #1 has some striking imagery and is very readable. Sometimes Cypress’ line-work wavers, and his figure work can be inconsistent, like some of the gangsters’ hands being too big for their arms, but his panels are full of power and red blood splotches. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a story to go with the art. Barbiere uses minimal dialogue and narration and lets Cypress’ art create both the internal and external conflict in White Suits. However, by the end of the issue, I couldn’t recall any of the characters’ names. There is plenty of surreal flashbacks and bloody shootouts, but these action sequences do nothing to develop the characters’ personalities. White Suits #1 is good to look at, but it lacks depth.

Barbiere’s hardboiled narration is well-written and reminiscent of Frank Miller’s best work. But the character spouting the narration is just another cliched, hard on his luck anti-hero with a secret. Cypress makes sure his secrets have a nightmarish pulpy flair to them though. The villainous mob leaders have the character depth of a NPC from the Grand Theft Auto games, and the titular White Suits get even less development. They are effective killers, but that’s about it. Even though his character work is shoddy, Barbiere crafts a straightforward crime mystery storyline with a couple plot twists and one nice subversion of genre stereotypes.

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Even if the story and characters aren’t up to snuff, Toby Cypress brings a unique black and white art style to White Suits that is part film noir, part grindhouse movie. His panel layouts are cinematic as well and create tension with shots of characters’ eyes and before a sudden explosion of violence. Cypress colors the book, and he uses them for emphasis, like the introduction of a particularly crime lord. There is one scene in a night club with red lights in which the coloring doesn’t contribute to the story or atmosphere. The use of red in this scene almost weakens its other uses throughout the rest of the comic. However, Cypress’ biggest strengths are his precisely choreographed action scenes, which almost always erupt in fountains of blood. And he can draw a gorgeous splash page, like the title page of this comic, which also has some foreshadowing for later issues of White Suits.


Despite having visceral, well-composed art, White Suits #1 was a bit of a mixed bag. Barbiere gave his character somewhat of a voice with his caption boxes, but most of the comic focused on the activity of two-bit gangsters. Cypress’ figures could be a bit unwieldy, and some of their facial expressions felt out of place in a serious crime comic. White Suits #1 has a lot of weaknesses, but its visuals, fight scenes, and a big last page reveal were some of things that kept it from being a really bad comic.